"Golden Oldies" whoop it up


YOU CAN TELL a lot about a society by how it treats its seniors. And though I can’t speak firsthand, it seems the golden years are pretty good in the Oakland hills. Here, seniors are involved in everything from gardening groups to line dancing. They teach and take classes, raise money for charity and keep their minds and bodies sharp. The epicenter of active living for hundreds of these older adults is the Ascension Senior Center.

Founded in what is now the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of the Ascension on Lincoln Avenue, the Ascension Senior Center turned 25 this week. The party was wild — something akin to a cabaret with “love, chaos and mayhem,” as the organizers put it. Seniors were dancing and playing live music. There were lively games of canasta and mah-jongg, and a cake five layers high. A fountain of champagne was flowing freely, and folks were toasting their good fortune.

The bad news is, I didn’t find out about this early enough to publicize it. The good news is that this kind of fun and frivolity goes on every Thursday. And it’s free, thanks to the vision of two church women who started the center in 1979.

Becky Voulgares and Destina Bogdanos wanted a place for seniors in the community to share their talents and celebrate life. Ascension had the room, and soon there was funding for an activities coordinator. Despite the ongoing threat of budget cuts today, the center continues to thrive with the help of its director, Julie Jones.

She’s the spark plug for the 125-plus seniors who come to the center each week to take line dancing, tai chi, woodworking and a dozen other classes. The only charge is for lunch — and that’s a whopping $3. All I can say is, I can’t wait to be a “golden oldie” myself.

E-mail bag

Reader Pat Schwinn had this to say about my column on Oakland’s inferiority complex. “I thought I should let you know about an organization I discovered almost a year ago.” She says the group Close to Home was founded by two energetic women who wanted an active, hands-on way for people to learn about our East Bay treasures.

“Over the past year, they have held 10 public lectures at Montclair Presbyterian Church and one at the Oakland Museum,” Pat writes. “Topics have ranged from the history of Mount Diablo to critters of the region and the night sky — all presented by experts who are passionate about their subject.” The next program is set for 8 p.m. Monday, March 8, with naturalist Beverly Ortiz. For more information, visit the Web site http://www.close-to-home.org.

Sign language

What is happening to our motor manners? Roadway rudeness is at an all-time high, according to readers such as Kim R., who says she was almost hit by another woman in Montclair recently. “I was getting ready to turn at a four-way stop at Mountain and La Salle, when a car coming from the opposite direction shot in front of me,” she says. Not only did the motorist jump her turn, she barreled through the intersection with her middle finger extended for all to see.

Door to door

The movie by William H. Macy is a far cry from how people respond to door-to-door salespeople today. I’m hearing ongoing complaints from readers who answer their doorbell to find someone peddling discount restaurant coupons, magazines and other products.

Erin C. says the man at her door was so pushy, the police were called. Another reader says she sent out a neighborhood alert when a man started showing up day after day, selling magazines. She says he has no license or paperwork for door-to-door sales.

Oakland police have a phone number for these kinds of concerns. It’s the non-emergency line: 510-777-3333.

Doggie decay

Thanks to Montclair Veterinary Hospital for letting me know this is National Pet Dental Health Month. I have enough trouble getting my kids to brush, let alone my cat. But luckily, veterinarians can do dog and cat dental cleaning — and even take X-rays of their teeth.

Doctors James Harris (now in Tasmania) and Gary Richter (still in Montclair) say the clinic’s machine can get into a space so small, staff can even do dental exams on birds. So if you hear any squawking when you pass the Montclair Village vet center, you’ll know why.

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